Kruger National Park Series #3

This article is all about Letaba. One of my 3 favourite places in Kruger. For us this camp is different from the others. There is so much to see here that on one occasion we stayed in camp for 3 days without going outside of the gates. The reason for that is the birdlife. During the day, the chatter of the birds is constant… until they all settle down for the night. All the different voices are wonderful to hear.

Apart from the birds there are bushbuck that have taken up residence in the camp and they wander around from tent to caravan in search of something to eat. They are very shy though and are slow to approach humans.

One is not allowed to feed them because they will make a nuisance of themselves and human food is not very healthy for them to eat. Their are signs posted about not feeding the animals but alas, there are still some people that choose to ignore the rules.

We camp near the fence (in a tent as I mentioned in the first article) and we do so because there are Hyenas that patrol the fence also in search of a handout, especially when the barbecue fires are being lit and the smell of meat being cooked starts appealing to the sensitive noses of the carnivores – human and otherwise. The Hyenas take up station on their bellies, front paws crossed, and stare at the people cooking their food – willing them to toss a chop or piece of sausage over the fence. There are horror stories – the truth of which I cannot testify to – of a young girl sticking her hand out holding a piece of meat for hyenas and lost her hand in the process. These are very dangerous creatures, and however cute they make themselves appear…well… just beware!

Elephants also approach the fence browse on trees close by which makes excellent viewing.

We have seen snakes, I hesitate to be specific but I am almost certain that we saw a boomslang in a tree quite high above our heads. This was at night however and the underbelly showed up as if fluorescent in the torchlight. The staff were being very careful and referred to the snake as “inyoka” which is the Xhosa word for snake or serpent.

Letaba has a huge river flowing past the restaurant. Sitting there with some coffee one is entertained by wildlife viz., Elephants, Cape Buffalo, Kudu, Waterbuck, Impala, variety of birds. Most notable amongst the birdlife were the Blue Waxbills and the Fire Finches. Storks and Fish Eagles are also present. In summer months (over November, December & January) the river is full as it is the rain season. I visited during winter so most of the rivers are quite empty. There is however still a lot of water underground – and fairly close to the surface. I have witnessed elephants digging a hole with their huge paws just a few inches deep and they get cool water to drink.

Not only is the viewing awesome, but they also have a Elephant museum in Letaba camp. This museum is a “must see”.

The pathways are nicely laid out with benches to park oneself down with a book, binoculars and something to snack on…

Outside the camp there are lovely roads which offer a lot of game viewing.

Other rest camps within reasonable reach of Letaba for a day trip are: Mopani and Satara. If one needs some serious shopping the town of Phalaborwa is close enough to make a fairly quick excursion to the malls.

The following video gives one a sense of the surroundings…

Kruger National Park Series #2

Here goes with chapter 2 of my Kruger National Park series… featuring Pretoriuskop Rest Camp

First off, when we go to the Kruger we camp. In a tent. We have twice in all our visits stayed in one of the bungalows and that is ok. But just OK. Being used to a tent we have gotten accustomed to the ambience of tented life. The bungalows are too quiet. The thick walls and thatched roofing blocks out most of the sounds of the bushveld.

In a tent you can hear the owls hunting and communicating with their partners. You hear the occasional yip yip of the Hyenas, the trumpeting of the elephants and the roars of a lion. When there is a storm you see VERY clearly through the thin roof tent the lightning. You experience it… you feel it… it is all alive around you.

We have a few camps which are our favourites. In no particular order they are:

Shingwedzi Rest Camp, Letaba Rest Camp and Pretoriuskop Rest Camp. These 3 are where we choose most often to camp.

Pretoriuskop is the southern-most camp of the 3 and we usually stay there last. We start off with Shingwedzi which lies in the northern half of the Kruger. We would then move on to Letaba which is just above the middle section of the park.

Secondary Rest Camps which we like to visit are: Mopani, Olifants and Satara. Mopani & Olifants does not have a tent campsite. They only offer bungalow accommodation. Satara does have tent sites available, but is within reach of Letaba for a visit. I will discuss these camps in future blogs.

Things to do around Pretoriuskop:

  • Visit the tree section. There is a large section of the Rest camp where they have planted indigenous trees of all sorts. They all have plaques naming & describing the trees. It is fascinating. There is also a man-made waterfall leading to a huge swimming pool. In the heat of summer this can offer some respite.
  • There are a number of dams / water sources for the wildlife nearby which provide very suitable wildlife viewing points. Wildlife we have seen here are:
    • Lion,
    • Leopard,
    • Elephant
    • Crocodile
    • Wildebeest
    • Rhinoceros
    • Hippopotamus
    • Numerous types of antelope
    • Cape Buffalo
    • Rich assortment of Birdlife
  • There is a very nice restaurant as well as a camp shop where one can stock up on meat, veg, drinks, fruit as well as purchase souvenirs and other merchandise.

Using Pretoriuskop as a base one can quite easily explore the southern piece of the Kruger in a day, visiting camps like Berg-en-dal, Malelane, Crocodile Bridge, Lower Sabie and the very popular Skukuza main camp.

Pretoriuskop Pool Area
Pretoriuskop – Waterfall into pool

Kruger National Park Series #1

My wife & I have a few favourite holiday spots. Number 1 on the list is the Kruger National park. There is so much to see. Such peace and tranquility while being so quietly dangerous at the same time.

I am going to be posting a series of KNP videos over the next few days… In these blogs I will be posting information as well. This will be designed to assist anyone thinking of taking a trip to Kruger with ideas on where to go to stay and what to look out for…

The first blog dedicated to KNP is this one on the Flap-Necked Chameleon. It feeds on insects such as grasshoppers and beetles. It varies in colour from pale yellow through Green to Brown. What has been noticed is that when stressed it changes colour to Brown with the markings becoming darker. This was the case with this one that was crossing a rather busy road.

I hope you enjoy the series…

Revisiting an Airshow

I was fortunate to be one of the few accredited photographers at the AAD (African Aerospace & Defense) Airshow for 3 consecutive shows held in Cape Town at the Airforce Base Ysterplaat. This event is in actual fact a tradeshow that lasts 1 week. After the Tradeshow closes on the Friday the rest of the weekend is open to the public and dedicated to the Airshow. The exhibitors that have not packed up and left are also then opened to the public.

I previously blogged about the airshows in the blog entitled Memories Part (1) which featured a selection of photos from all 3 years 2006, 2008 & 2010.

Here I have concentrated on the year 2008 with a video I put together with quite a number of photos included – I hope you enjoy it.

Airshow 2008


African Penguin

(Click a thumbnail image to see the bigger version)

The African penguin (Spheniscus demersus), a.k.a. the Cape penguin, and South African penguin, is a species of penguin indigenous to the waters of southern Africa.

Stony Point is a Nature Reserve situated in Betty’s Bay in South Africa and is run by Cape Nature. See their website:

There used to be a whaling station adjacent to the reserve in the distant past and there is still the remains of a wreck near the slipway.

The first Penguin nest in Stony Point was discovered in 1982. Now it is estimated that there are approximately 2000 pairs in this colony alone. Dassen Island, in the year 1900, had more than a million breeding pairs.

The African Penquins only breed on 25 islands and at 3 mainland sites between Algoa Bay and Central Namibia and nowhere else in the world. This penguin was formerly called the Jackass Penguin as it’s call sounds very much like the braying of a donkey.

Aside from the penguins we saw some lizards (very colourful ones), cormorants, seagulls and a few Rock (or Cape) Hyraxes, commonly known as Dassies. We also saw a pair of Egyptian Geese, proud parents of a bunch of little EG’s huddled together – very cute.

The Lizards were varied and as you can see from the photographs quite colourful. I unfortunately have little or no knowledge of these magnificent creatures.

We also caught a Cape Gull red-handed (er… make that red-beaked) having stolen an egg from some unfortunate mommy bird… that’s all part of life in nature!

I am adding a fun video of these photos and some more as a bonus… click this link:




I know, I know… it’s the moon again!


I must apologise if this bores you, but I am fascinated by our moon and very often find myself gazing at it. Especially if I am tired, or perhaps feeling a bit off, I find that the moon brings a calmness that it only can do.

There are plenty of tales that feature our moon. Witches, werewolves, vampires and the like… Well there have been nicer things written as well…

Samuel Taylor Coleridge: The moving moon went up the sky, and nowhere did abide. Softly she was going up, and a star or two beside.”

Colin Farrell: “I’ve never seen a moon in the sky that, if it didn’t take my breath away, at least misplaced it for a moment.”

Even your’s truly once wrote a poem that featured the moon…

To my wife: Loving You                                                                                                                      
by BJ Spencer-Hicken

My love for you is not like a red, red rose, whose,
leaves will fade and die in a few days time.

No, my love for you is more like the waves crashing on the beach, or,
the feel of sea sand and water under my feet, or,
the soft reflection of the moon on a quiet lake, or,
the look in the eyes of a mother on seeing her new born baby.

No, my love for you is not like a red, red rose, whose,
leaves will fade and die in a few days time.

It is more like an earthquake, for when I see you I feel the earth move, or
is it more like my feet moving over the earth trying to get to you quickly
so that I can scoop you into my arms and plant my lips firmly on yours
with a kiss that says… “Lord, thank you so very, very much, for my wife, my life, my love!”

P.S. For those interested, the image details are:
F-Stop: f/16
Max Aperture: 5.25
Exposure Time: 1/80 sec.
ISO Speed: ISO-100
Exposure Bias: 0 step
Focal Length: 600mm

The second image is the same image treated with a bit of HDR (High Dynamic Range) care. I stacked 3 images with medium, low, and high exposure settings and combined them to get the following image. I also added a slight yellow hue to it just to add colour back in and make it look more like the original as there was a reddish yellowish hue to the atmosphere that evening. I was shooting in monochrome at the time.



Harold Porter Botanical Garden

This botanical garden is part of the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI).

See the official site…

And not only that… but it is one our favourite spots to visit. The garden is not as organised as Kirstenbosch, but I love what they have done with it… there are many ponds, pathways and fynbos gardens laid out with bridges crossing the river to walking trails and a beautiful waterfall.

Unfortunately, in the recent past, that whole area experienced a devastating wildfire which destroyed homes and lives of a lot of people but it also took its toll on the biosphere, especially the Harold Porter gardens. The gardens have been restored nicely, as well as the bridges. But some of the damage is still visible in the form of burnt support posts of a set of wooden steps over a garden… or the wooden pathway that leads to the waterfall which is not open to the public. I had to climb down into the river onto a dry sandy patch to get the picture of the waterfall for this blog, as it would not have been visible from the pathway.

The flowers are beautiful and the grass is nice and green. There is plenty of water in the river and lots of shade under the trees. One could pack a picnic basket and spend a wonderful couple of hours in the garden. One thing though; the restaurant is not available as it is closed for renovation at the moment. So bring your own snacks along.

Enjoy the slideshow. You will see that I took multiple images of the same scene, e.g., the mushrooms –  I took a normal but monochrome shot as well as a High Dynamic Range (HDR) shot which is basically 3 stacked images at differing exposures which causes the resultant image to be very rich in colour detail.

I also took some monochrome long-exposure images. I have a set of 3 Neutral Density filters which when stacked allows one to keep the camera aperture open in bright sunlight for a number of seconds which causes water images, waterfalls and anything moving really to smear like painting with light. This is very pretty when water is the subject… check it out.


Normal Image – Monochrome


Long Exposure image of waterfall


HDR mushroom


HDR Image of waterfall


Long Exposure Image of small waterfall


Normal Image of vygie


HDR image of small waterfall


Long Exposure of river


Long Exposure Image of Waterfall


HDR Image of garden pond


Long Exposure Image of waterfall


HDR Image of Waterfall


Normal image of Giant Protea


HDR image of RIver